893.00/9789: Telegram

The Chargé in China (Mayer) to the Secretary of State

138. My 135, March 2, 4 p.m. Following from the Minister, relayed at his request: [Page 310]

“The Legation has repeated to me radio 0029–1600 from the commander in chief, the United States Asiatic Fleet, to the Secretary of the Navy, recommending in effect the reduction of our marine forces in China, as also the Legation’s telegram No. 135, March 2, 4 p.m., to the Department.

I understand that the Admiral discussed this same proposal with Mayer in Peking during September, last, while I was in the United States, but that he was at that time convinced that it would be premature to make any substantial reduction of our forces. He has not consulted with me on this question since my return to China, nor given me any occasion to suppose that he had either military or other reasons to dissent from my original recommendation that the present marine forces be sent to China or my subsequent recommendation (as discussed with you last autumn) that it would be highly advisable to keep them here until some definitely favorable change in the situation may have taken place. It was therefore a complete surprise to me that he has made a contrary recommendation—the more so because his recommendation appears to me to be wholly based not upon naval or military grounds, but upon considerations of the local Chinese political situation and of the reactions upon it to be expected under given circumstances. I think it is clear that such an estimation of Chinese political reactions is a matter involving the functions of the diplomatic representative in China rather than of the naval commander in Far Eastern waters, and while prepared to consider with all respect any views on political matters which the Admiral might see fit to lay before me, I cannot forego my own responsibility for recommendations to you as to such as come within the scope of the authority devolving upon me as your representative. I must therefore advise you that I dissent absolutely from the commander in chief’s recommendation, which I feel is based upon a mistaken assumption as to the attitude of the Chinese towards the presence of our marine forces.
I fully concur in the views set forth in Mayer’s telegram No. 135, March 2, 4 p.m., and consider furthermore that any substantial reduction in the marines, particularly at Tientsin, would tend to bring about risks of far more serious and provocative incidents than might accidentally arise through their presence in adequate force. In their present numbers and with equipment (such as the aviation unit) the possession of which assures them a very marked, though intangible psychological superiority, their presence affords an effective safeguard not only against mob violence but against soldiery disorganized either by defeat or by victory, which past experience at Tientsin has shown to be the greatest and most probable danger in the event of any change in the military control of the area such as might well happen in the forthcoming campaign. If materially reduced either in men or in equipment, as the Admiral’s recommendation contemplates, the marine force would not only cease to afford such safeguard but would lose its present independence of action and have to be assimilated to the protocol forces81 and become obligated for the protection of its own position to join in mutual arrangements with the British, French, Italian and Japanese [Page 311] forces, in the same manner as we had very reluctantly to arrange in the case of the Fifteenth Infantry 2 years ago.82
I therefore most strongly recommend that the marine force in China be maintained at substantially its present strength until such time as the Legation may be able to report the existence of such conditions as would enable that force to be either reduced or withdrawn without incurring undue risks to the safety of American lives and interests.”

  1. See art ix of Final Protocol, Foreign Relations, 1901, appendix (Affairs of China), p. 316.
  2. Refers apparently to arrangement for the defense of Tientsin; see ibid., 1926, vol. i, p. 736 ff.